22 September 2005

Cameroon: Centre - Peace Corps : Towards Sustainable Development

The American Peace Corps worked on the feedback and recommendation provided by some twenty seven Volunteers, operating in the health and agroforestry sectors in Cameroon during a two-day workshop which took place in Yaounde recently. The seminar marked the end of the service of field volunteer workers in the country.

According to the Associate Peace Corps Director for Agriculture and Environment, George Yebit, the conference was aimed at throwing lights on the achievements of volunteer workers, underscoring the impact of their work on the lives of the Cameroonian people and preparing the workers psychologically in order to facilitate re-insertion into their culture of origin.

During their two- year- stay in Cameroon, the health educators played a key role in the fight against HIV/AIDS by elevating community awareness through utilization of behaviour change communication. On the other hand, the agroforestry extension Volunteers worked in close collaboration with farmer leaders to increase public awareness regarding sustainable farming systems and improved natural resource management. The two Volunteer groups worked in partnership with both the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development respectively.

During the workshop, Richard Waite, an agroforestry extension volunteer explained how the work on the field was done. "I worked in Bangang in the Western Province, where we did medicinal gardening with most of the farmers who showed a lot of interest. We taught them how to grow medicinal plants and preserve species that are nearly getting extinct". He also added that "most of the plants grown are both native and foreign species. This however, has contributed a great deal to the people's awareness on the use of some local plants". He said that the project on medicinal gardening was aimed at reducing the cost of health care in some rural areas. 30 to 40 farmers have trained in this domain.

Volunteers mentioned that the only difficulties they faced was cultural barrier but also acknowledged that they got use to it. On their achievements, Mr. George Yebit, the associate Peace Corps Director said "it is a nearly success story. About 2000 farm families have been assisted to adopt agro forestry based techniques since 1991". This he added, "has increased the farmers' income". He also said that 100 farmer leaders have received extension communication skills and over thirty others have been trained to help others. Some resource centres like the Riba Agro Forestry Resource centre in Nso and the Belo Environmental Protection Agency have benefited from the Peace Corps.

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